A New Roommate
In spite of the assurance from Student Housing that I wouldn’t be getting another ‘problem roommate’, I was still worried about it. But it turned out I didn’t need to be.
My new roomie showed up the weekend before classes started, and I came back from work to find him typing like mad on a laptop and his side of the room already decorated. With posters from movies he apparently liked, most of which had some kind of monster on them. He glanced up. “Hey.”
“Hey.” I stripped off the apron and hung it up. “I’m Danny.”
“Pete.” He looked up again and raised an eyebrow, because I was looking at the posters. “Aw please tell me you aren’t creeped out like the last one was, please.”
I grinned at him. “No, I’m good – they’re cool.” I pointed. “What’s that one? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one.”
He looked, grinned back. “Oh, you don’t want to – it’s a shit foreign movie about killers, the concept art was supposed to be metaphorical. It’s an awesome poster, though.”
“It is.” I grabbed one of the textbooks I’d already known I was going to need and kicked back on my bed with it. Couldn’t hurt to get ahead on the reading – didn’t want to kill another mandatory English class, after all. Hopefully Pete was really the cool guy he seemed like he was.
He was. He was a computer science major and not interested in chasing tail, as he put it. He was from Hawaii and had a girlfriend there who he’d known since high school, and although it sounded like things may have cooled off a little between them since he’d moved off the island, he wasn’t in any hurry to write the relationship off just yet. He also said not having his girlfriend available meant he got more programming done, and he showed me the apps he’d built that were the way he made extra money. I actually had one of them on my phone, which made him really happy.
Pete turned out to be kind of a workaholic, but that was fine by me. He liked his monster movies, and he usually had them playing while he worked. I got used to it and eventually stopped being distracted by the background of roars and screams. Pete did go out sometimes, usually on Thursday nights, and I had a vague idea that he and his friends went to play games somewhere. I normally didn’t get back to the room until he was already gone and I was in bed before he got back – I worked Thursday nights and had an early morning Friday class. Our schedules were so different that I hardly ever saw him at all, in fact, and I would probably never have met him if we hadn’t ended up being roommates.
There was a mass exodus at Spring Break – because we were within driving distance of some places people wanted to go on Spring Break – and Pete and his friends went to a convention that they’d all been saving up for. The bookstore was closed, which meant the coffee shop was closed, but they were happy to loan me out to the library because the library was doing inventory and needed all the hands they could get. So I spent the week pushing a loaded cart up and down the stacks, using a hand scanner to verify that every book was accounted for and in the right place. I was so sore by the end of the week that I could barely move, but I had earned an extra week’s wages and that was no bad thing. Summer session was coming up, and financial aid didn’t cover that.
I was lazing around the room – hadn’t even gotten out of my pajamas, in fact – when Pete got back on Sunday. He was tired and looked like he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, and it was possible he’d been wearing the same clothes for about that long too. He looked happy, though, and after dumping off a ton of stuff he staggered off to the shower and came back looking a little more like someone who didn’t live under a bridge. He rooted through the stuff and then tossed over something that landed in my lap, a little cardboard tube. “They were giving away promo posters, I snagged you one,” he said. “Your side of the room is not up to my standards, I figured you needed a hint.”
He wasn’t wrong; I didn’t have anything on my side of the room except my books, clothes, laptop, and the bunny the drunk girls had left me for Christmas. “Thanks,” I said, putting my lit book aside and pulling the poster out of the tube. There was a new Godzilla movie on its way, apparently – and my guess, from the expression on Godzilla’s face, was that it was going to be a comedy. I got up, not without some creaking and groaning, and dug out the little package of poster putty they’d included in all our dorm welcome packages. “How about over the desk?”
“That’s a good place to start,” he approved, but he’d raised an eyebrow. “And what exactly were you doing while I was gone?”
I laughed. “Nothing that fun. Library inventory. They wanted it done over the break, so the bookstore loaned me out.”
“Oh that’s right, they were closed, weren’t they?” He moved all of the stuff to the top of his desk and stretched out on his bed. “Well that sucks. I feel kind of bad for wasting my whole break now.”
“Don’t. I got paid, you didn’t,” I countered, and went back to my book. And then I thought of something. “Hey, you’re in Tootsie’s Chem I class, aren’t you?” He grunted. “You do have your midterm assignment ready, right?”
Very slowly, he sat up and stared at me. “What?”
“One of the guys in the library is in the class with you, dude, and he’s been freaking out all week because Tootsie said this one’s worth double points – plus or minus.”
‘Tootsie’ was not the professor’s actual name, of course; it was just what the students called him. Pete blinked at me and then groaned. “Oh shit, I totally forgot. And Joey’s in there too…” He dragged his phone off the desk and called someone. “Dude, forgot some homework – that damned Chem I assignment. And it’s double points.” I very clearly heard cursing from the other end of the phone. “Yeah, well, I can’t afford to blow that and you can’t either, so go shower and then get your ass over here…because you stink and I drove, monkeyboy. Just do it, don’t bitch about it.” He cut the call off in the middle of another spate of cursing, grinning. “Thanks, man, we totally forgot. Can’t afford to lose extra points in that class.”
“So I’ve heard – the guy in the library was driving himself up a tree about it, I thought the librarian was going to run over him with a cart.” I went back to my lit, which was also due the following day; I was having shit luck with English professors. Luckily this was the last mandatory English class I had to take, and then I could get on with the math and science.
Joey showed up some thirty minutes later in a water-streaked t-shirt and sweats, shambling along in a pair of furry purple slippers that each had one eye and one horn and tiny little wings stitched to the sides. I had seen Joey before, of course, but up close and in our room he was gigantic – not bulky, just really, really tall. Of course, since it was me making that observation, you have to consider that estimate relative to the source. I leveled off between five-seven and five-eight somewhere around tenth grade and never gained so much as a quarter of an inch since. Much to the dismay of my father, who was ‘average’ height and so were all the other men in his family; he blamed my mother’s side for making me smaller than I should have been.
Actually, he blamed Mom’s genes for more than that…but I try not to think about that. Or about him period if I can help it.
Joey had never seen me up close before either, and in his half-awake state he just blinked at me for a minute like he couldn’t quite figure something out. Finally, he shook his head. “Damn, you really are tiny. You aren’t a vegan or shit are you?”
I snorted. “Hardly – I’m just short. Did you just have to duck coming in?”
“Yeah, this dorm has short-people doors – it’s the old dorm,” he explained. “I’ve been trying to get moved into the newer one, the ceilings are higher over there.” He sat down on Pete’s bed and stretched out his legs – which were so long they almost reached my side of the room, but we also had a really small room. “Crap, I can’t believe we forgot this assignment. Please tell me it doesn’t have a lab component?”
“It doesn’t have a lab component,” Pete told him, then reached out and smacked him with a notebook. “Of course it has a lab component, you moron. Which luckily I already did most of last week, so we can use my notes.”
“I love you, man.” Joey pulled himself a little more upright, flipping open the notebook to get to the notes. “Oh, this. I did this, I just didn’t remember it was due tomorrow.” He pulled a battered laptop out of the bag he’d dragged in, flipping it open and booting up. “Don’t plug anything into her, I think I got a porn virus.”
“You always have a porn virus.” Pete took the laptop away from him, did something, and then handed it back with a roll of his eyes. “That was just the quarantine warning, the program I put on there stopped your latest PTD before it could get started. Porn Transmitted Disease,” he tossed over at me. “Joey’s only as dumb as he looks when it comes to safe computer use, the rest of the time he’s about average.”
That didn’t seem to bother Joey. “Does your girlfriend know you have pictures of monsters next to your bed instead of pictures of her? Or is one of those a picture of her?”
“I can make the software email your mother a screencap of the quarantined item’s source, Joey.”
This time Joey hit him. “She’d send you cookies and me a lecture, and then Dad would call to ask if I knew you were spying on me through my computer.”
Pete snickered. “Remind me to make that change, I like cookies. Now down to business. I don’t get what he’s talking about right here, dihydro what?”
“I am so telling him you program while he’s lecturing and your software takes notes for you. He means water, Pete – dihydrogen monoxide is water.”
“Why didn’t he just say H2O?”
I went back to my lit assignment, smiling. The banter was kind of distracting, yeah, but it was fun to listen to.